The new crime drama Outlier sees Norwegian criminologist Maja Angell (Hanne Mathisen Haga) studying for her PhD in London when she gets word of the brutal murder of a young woman in her tiny hometown in her country’s far north. When the police announce that they’ve arrested a suspect, she knows they’ve got the wrong guy.
Maja has strong theories on why men murder women, and we’re told they’re rooted in her own personal experience. She returns home to dig into the case, much to the consternation of both local police chief Johan (Stein Bjørn), who resents the intrusion, and her father Anders (Erik Smith-Meyer), who is only one of the residents who seem worried some old secrets might be pulled to the surface by her nosing around. Which we know, as veteran Nordic noir fans, is almost certainly going to happen.
Not so much a Western as a Northern
We’ve loved our Nordic noir ever since we were knee high to Jo Nesbo and so we understand that, when you boil it down to the basics, the appeal is how the grim and gritty subject matter contrasts with the wintry-clean, ostensibly sedate, urban setting: there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark (or Norway in this case), and we must make a deep incision through the respectable, socially progressive surface of Scandinavian society to dig into the nasty stuff below.
Nordic noir draws deeply from the well of hardboiled crime fiction and film noir – it’s right there in the name – but something interesting happens when you take a Scandi crime story out of the city and set it in the back blocks – the urban noir becomes a rural Western – or perhaps, with more geographical accuracy, a Northern.